Head to Eagle River in southeastern Vilas County in the winter months, and you’ll find a palace that’s fit for royalty right in the heart of the Northwoods of Wisconsin.
Since 1933, downtown Eagle River has been home to the city’s famous ice castle, a 20-foot-tall structure made entirely of blocks of ice from a local lake. The attraction, first created for Eagle River’s “King Winter” festival in 1933, it’s consistently one of the city’s most popular photo ops, attracting snowmobilers, motorists, residents and visitors alike every winter.
Construction starts on the weekend closest to the new year, when dedicated volunteer firefighters and other local volunteers score and cut the ice on Silver Lake and transport nearly 3,000 blocks of 12-inch-thick ice—each weighing up to 70 pounds—to the construction site.
Construction is all done by hand and takes about 700 hours. Volunteers still use some of the original equipment (like an ice saw and a conveyor system) and techniques to remove the ice and transport it to the construction site.
Typically the ice castle is 20 feet high, but differing ice conditions mean the castle’s size, shape and opaqueness vary from year to year. Floodlights illuminate the castle at night, making for a can’t-miss photo op.
Depending on weather conditions, the ice castle usually stays up until the middle of February, when the remains are taken down. Visitors will find information about the castle and its local sponsors, as well as a donation box, at the back of the structure.
Learn more about the ice castle, including current ice conditions, here.
Discover more Vilas County attractions here.
Find more fun attractions in Eagle River and see places to stay here.